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Contador Decision Released: One Year Ban, Loses Tour de France

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2010 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador receives one year sanction for dopingAccording to Spanish newspaper El País, the Spanish Federation has given Alberto Contador a one year ban from cycling. The Spanish rider tested positive at the 2010 Tour de France for the banned substance Clenbuterol, which he claimed he ingested by eating tainted meat. Contador has ten days to appeal the decision by the Spanish Federation. He also now loses his 2010 Tour de France title, and international cycling rules require him to return all prize money he earned from the race. Second place rider Andy Schleck should become the new winner, just as Oscar Pereiro replaced Floyd Landis after the American tested positive in 2006.

Earlier this week, rumors had suggested the decision was imminent. Those rumors proved correct as the Spanish Federation announced their verdict at mid-day on Wednesday. Early reports had suggested that the Federation would draw on the Alessandro Colo case as a precedent for their decision and give Contador an abbreviated sanction. Colo tested positive for Clen after eating beef in Latin America, where the drug remains widely used in cattle ranching. The standard sanction for doping offenses is two years, but Contador claimed that he had unknowingly ingested the Clenbuterol.

Clenbuterol is banned due to its stimulant properties and is often used as part of the doping arsenal for weight loss and lean muscle development. Though it is banned by the European Union, it is also used in agriculture, specifically to raise leaner beef. Some disagreement exists over how prevalent the use of Clenbuterol remains among European farmers and over how easily it can pass from treated meat to humans. By granting Contador a reduced sanction, the Spanish Federation appears to have believed his claims that he did not intentionally take the drug and that it likely derived from a rest-day steak dinner.

Both the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Authority have said that they would appeal the Contador case to TAS, the sports arbitration court in Switzerland, if the rider received less than the full two year sanction. It remains to be seen if the two organizations will follow through on this promise. The Spanish decision may also have implications for the case of former RadioShack rider Fuyu Li, who received a two year ban for Clenbutorol. The Chinese rider may now have grounds to appeal his sanction. If the Contador case goes to the sports arbitration court, it could take several months before the court issues a final decision.

Contador will almost certainly miss this year's Giro d'Italia and Tour de France. El País did not confirm the precise dates of Contador's suspension, but the stage race specialist will also likely miss the 2011 Vuelta a España, which begins on 20 August 2011. The standard sanction runs from the time the rider is notified of the positive test, unless he continues to race. In this case, Contador received notification on 24 August 2010, and will be eligible to ride one year after that date. Andy Schleck should meanwhile receive the 2010 Tour de France title and start the 2011 race as the defending champion.

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